Fantasy Football: Which new Chiefs receiver should you draft and more AFC West questions
One of the most common ways to get started on your fantasy football preparation for the season ahead is to not only look at positional rankings but also at the state of each NFL team's offense.
Which teams are most set up for success? Which teams are set to struggle? Which of those expected bottom-feeder teams have latent fantasy talent to mine from? Which of those top teams could actually disappoint fantasy managers?
Over the coming weeks, fantasy football analyst Liz Loza will sift through every division and highlight the biggest fantasy issues facing each team within. Next up, the AFC West.
Los Vegas Raiders: Will Derek Carr be a top-12 FF QB in 2022?
He was the QB13 overall in 2021.
That was after his head coach resigned, his deep threat was waived and his favorite red-zone target missed six games due to numerous nagging injuries.
Subtract those issues — and add Davante Adams — and Derek Carr could flirt with top-10 numbers.
Carr has been slinging the rock — despite his previous reputation as a check-down king — recording 142 deep ball attempts over the past two seasons. He’s also managed a top-eight YPA and a top-12 True Passer Rating in back-to-back efforts. Despite all of the obstacles noted above, he recorded an accuracy rating of 8.0 (QB2).
Josh McDaniels might strive for more balance, placing a larger emphasis on the run game. However, given the division in which the Raiders play, and the question marks surrounding the team’s secondary … expect Carr’s throwing shoulder to stay plenty warm.
He’s a solid bet to clear 600 pass attempts (35 per game) on the year, and even at a reduced YPA, he’s still in line for a 4,500 season. Reuniting with his former Fresno State teammate and getting Darren Waller back to 100 percent should significantly lift his TD mark over into the 29-31 range.
Denver Broncos: Which Broncos pass-catcher are you most willing to trust?
Matt Harmon and I listed our five biggest winners from the offseason on the Yahoo Fantasy Football Forecast earlier this month. No surprise: Denver was on the list.
While replacing Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock with Russell Wilson is an obvious upgrade, there are still questions about which pass-catcher will emerge as Wilson’s favorite target. Right now, I’m betting on Courtland Sutton to lead the charge, and have him ranked six spots ahead of Jerry Jeudy.
In terms of sneaky value and consistency as it relates to the position, however, Albert Okwuegbunam is the way to go.
Noah Fant recorded a target share of 18.3% (TE9/10) in 2020 and 2021. Fant averaged 5 looks per contest when sharing the field with Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy last year. With the former Hawkeye now in Seattle, Okwuegbunam figures to serve as the Broncos' starting TE and could reasonably flirt with 80 looks in 2022.
At 6-foot-6 and 258 pounds and with 4.49 speed, Albert O is a chilling mismatch for opposing linebackers. A converted wide receiver, he knows how to work the middle of the field and bail out a QB. Per PFF, Okwuegbunam earned the second-highest passer rating when targeted (118.9) over his last two seasons at Mizzou (behind only Pat Freiermuth). That knowledge and subsequent sure-handedness translated to the pros, as he’s recorded just one career drop.
No one is sure how much Russ will cook in Denver … but the efficiency between him and O figures to sizzle. Expect at least top-14 numbers from Denver’s new TE1.
Kansas City Chiefs: Which Chiefs player presents the most fantasy value?
#Burnt takes be darned, Ronald Jones is an intriguing prospect — especially for zero or anchor RB enthusiasts — in the ninth round. He may not be used at the goal line as regularly as Darrel Williams was last year (28 attempts inside 20, RB27), but his skill set could allow for similar rushing and receiving volume (nearly 12 touches per contest).
I’m burying the lede here, though. The real get in KC is a receiver. And Twitter knows it:
Which Chiefs player are you most interested in investing in at their current ADP (.5PPR, 12-team redraft)? #FantasyFootball
— Liz Loza (@LizLoza_FF) June 14, 2022
Scott Pianowski pounded the table for JuJu Smith-Schuster on this week’s Yahoo Fantasy Football Forecast, explaining that the former Steeler was in line for an abundance of regular looks.
With over 250 targets vacated in Kansas City, Smith-Schuster, Marques Valdes-Scantling and Skyy Moore have all become buzzy fantasy commodities. Juju’s well-roundedness and experience as a “Z” receiver give him the edge in terms of opportunity. He’ll never be the deep threat that MVS is, but he can work underneath routes and has the YAC to pad his stats. He’s also only 25 years old and reportedly recovered from the shoulder strain (no other shoulder issues recorded in his public medical history) that forced him to miss 12 games last season.
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Assuming he stays healthy, Smith-Schuster could flirt with 120 targets. Given the upgrade at QB, his YPR should be closer to 11 than 8. That adds up to top-30 potential, making Smith-Schuster a solid buy in the seventh to eighth rounds of 12-team exercises. If his stock continues to rise over the summer, though, I’d stand pat and steal MVS after the double-digits hit.
Los Angeles Chargers: Will Isaiah Spiller's presence eat into Austin Ekeler’s volume and production?
I figured the best way to answer this question was to go straight to the source. So I asked my Ekeler’s Edge co-host his thoughts on the rookie.
Here’s what Austin — who had just met Spiller at OTAs — had to say: “He’s shown that he’s a fast learner, which will increase his chances of getting on the field.”
Fans of Ekeler’s Edge know that Austin is refreshingly honest about his body’s need for load management. My dude is not a workhorse and has no desire to handle the rock 20 times per game. He recorded a career-high 12.9 carries per game last year. Tom Telesco was clear about wanting to reduce Ek’s workload back in January.
The Spiller pick shouldn’t be a surprise … or a problem.
The former Aggie is an explosive and strong runner who has flashed potential as a receiver out of the backfield. Utilizing excellent vision, the 20-year-old can spot an opening, keep his sturdy legs churning and power his way through the gap. A career YPC of 5.5 in the highly-competitive SEC is a testament to the command with which he runs. In these ways he complements Austin.
Yet — as Eric Edholm and I discussed on the Rookie Snapshot Pod — Spiller’s game lacks maturity. He may be catching on quickly, as Austin has observed, but that doesn’t mean he’s mastered the nuance of the game.
Spiller may carve out a role, working behind Austin but ahead of Larry Rountree and Joshua Kelley with Justin Jackson no longer in L.A. There is no threat, however, that a team as uptempo and high-flying as the Chargers will take a deft and speedy pass-catcher like Austin Ekeler off the field.
EK remains a top-three fantasy option at running back. He’s in line for just under 900 rushing yards, 600 receiving yards, and 15-18 total scores.
(Oh, and … keep it locked on Yahoo Fantasy for Season TWO of Ekeler’s Edge!)
Engage with Liz on social @LizLoza_FF